GUEST POST BY CATHERINE PICKLES: ELEPHANT NATURE PARK, CHIANG MAI

Charlotte’s mum came to visit us for a week in Bangkok – it was brilliant to see her and gave us a real boost as we were starting to become a bit homesick by that point. Whilst Catherine really enjoyed the madness of Bangkok, elephants have always been a passion of hers and so we headed to Chiang Mai for a couple of nights…

It was such a treat to visit Charlotte and Sarah in Thailand, so when Charlotte suggested we spend a day at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai I was ecstatic. We boarded the overnight train from Bangkok’s busy station around 6.00 pm on Sunday evening and arrived in Chiang Mai refreshed and happy around 10.00 am the next day. Before heading for our hotel we paid a visit to the official office of the Elephant Nature Park in the centre of Chaing Mai and booked the last two places for the next day.

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We were collected from our hotel at 8.00 am by the tour guide in a very smart mini bus and were introduced to the rest of our group (about 10 of us). The journey was just over an hour’s drive up into the hills and we were given an overview of the Park’s mission – to protect, nurture and rehabilitate rescued elephants in a natural, loving environment.

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The Park was founded in 1996 by a local woman named Sanguden Chailert (or Lek to everyone who knows her) and is the only one of its kind in Thailand. ‘Lek’ means ‘small’ in Thai so it’s ironic that she is so akin to these magnificent giants! The elephants under Lek’s care come mainly from private owners and she has had to negotiate fees to enable them to join her herd. Some had outlived their usefulness to loggers, whilst others were no longer of any use to trekking camp owners.

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VIKASA YOGA RETREAT

Yoga in Koh Samui was at the top of our must-do list, so when we became friends with Betti, a yoga teacher on the island, we had the perfect opportunity. Originally from Germany, Betti trained in India when travelling around Asia and now works at one of Koh Samui’s prestigious yoga retreats. Hearing that we’d been doing some yoga back home, Betti invited us to join one of her hatha flow classes for free.

We jumped at the chance and whilst we’d had to check out of our hostel at 8am to make it to the class, had got lost and then turned up very sweaty with our big rucksacks, Betti had us finding our inner poise pretty quickly, aided by the sounds of the waves as we overlooked the ocean.

We cannot recommend this class highly enough. It’s suitable for people of all abilities and Betti offers variations for more advanced students. If you have the time and money, the resort itself looks beautiful and is an absolute sanctuary.

20130227-144857.jpg This is where the yoga classes take place, overlooking the water…

We met up with Betti the following evening at Bo Phut Farmer’s market where she was very amused to see the effect her class had had on our out-of-practise limbs; she definitely encourages you to push yourself to the best of your abilities!

Find out more about the stunning Vikasa Yoga Retreat, here.

Charlotte & Sarah x